Australia is a country in need of a large influx of highly skilled workers. Right now the economy is in danger of slowing due to a number of factors conspiring to create a massive skill shortage, across diverse occupations, such as tradesmen, engineers, doctors, and nurses. The main cause of this skill shortage is simple demographics. A large Baby Boomer population is getting older in South Australia. Almost 25% of the population will be 65 or older by 2036 while the population growth is less than 1%. This is an unsustainable level of growth without some form of migration.
A contributing factor to this skill gap is opposition by the unions to the government’s primary solution to combat the problem. The Federal Government announced the EMA scheme which allows skilled migrants to work on resource projects with capital expenditure of more than $2 billion and a peak workforce of more than 1500 workers, when there are no local workers to fill the gap. Despite these restrictions, unions are concerned that local workers will miss out in the future if migrants are permitted to take jobs now.
This view is short sighted. Many of these workers aren’t simply taking jobs and then leaving the country. Instead, they are creating a home in Australia. For example, carpenter Lorcan Brennan moved from England to Australia to escape a faltering economy. Australia has a booming market due to a shortage of carpenters. The 23 year old from Peterborough originally arrived on a holiday working visa, but has since obtained permanent residency due to his employer sponsored visa. This is just one example, but a drastic shortage of carpenters and a mining boom are drawing workers to Australia who then set down roots.
Industry employers simply can’t find the workers to fill the skill gap in the local workforce. By hiring from outside Australia, local companies are able to be more successful, thus being able to win more work, expand their business, and then train and employ more local workers. The net benefit of these foreign workers is the economy flourishes and more local workers find good jobs. This is why the 457 visa scheme is so important. It is successfully bringing much needed doctors, nurses, and engineers to South Australia and will be needed to cover the expected 89,000 extra mine workers needed by 2016.
Mark Glazbrook, managing director of Migration Solutions, and state president of the Migration Institute of Australia, says it best. He argues that 457 workers will help build local companies. According to him, “SA companies and businesses don’t lack the brainpower or capability to do the work, (they lack) the sheer manpower.” As much as any other Australian, he wants these people brought in from overseas to live where they work. This is exactly the type of assurance that the unions claim they are looking for.
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